When SpaceX announced that they were going to create a reusable rocket to save costs, those who understood such things were impressed. When they said that the reusable rocket was going to land itself on a self-piloted floating platform (called a drone ship) in the middle of the ocean, people rolled their eyes. It’s not that it’s impossible to land a topsy turvy rocket on a bobbing platform, it’s that it’s really, really hard. So hard that it’s almost not worth it.
But, SpaceX chose to do it anyway. So, they started with the easy stuff – having a rocket land itself on dry land. After they got that down, they started working on having the rocket land itself on a floating platform. The rocket crashed and exploded. So they tried again. And again. And again. Eventually, they got on a winning streak, landing 3 consecutive rockets on their drone ship, and one on land. And then they had another explosion; a “rapid, unscheduled disassembly”, as Elon Musk calls it.
Failing and learning is part of the process of doing things right, and of pushing the envelope of what’s possible. When President Kennedy commissioned the space program, nobody even knew if humans could survive in space, much less how to get them there safely. Now, space flight is so routine that we don’t even think about launches and returns. It’s not that space flight isn’t great – it’s that it’s routine. And that’s part of the way of things. It’s not that modern smartphones aren’t great, it’s that they’re commonplace. It’s not that the invention of fire, or the wheel, or written language isn’t a game-changer, it’s that it has become mundane.
The SpaceX project to create affordable, reliable space travel is an effort to take old, mundane (but nevertheless amazing) things and breathe new life into them. They are taking what we think of as “boring” space travel, and doing great things with it. It’s not just work for the sake of work. They’re not just making a new model of Honda Civic, they are making a self-driving rocket, picked up by a self-driving boat.
The world doesn’t need more stuff. Its needs more great stuff. It needs stuff that breathes new life into the greatness that already exists and brings it into the contemporary. The Church doesn’t just need more writers, more speakers, more people doing stuff. It just simply needs more great stuff. It needs the wind of life to blow through the great corridors of the past, but which have now become mundane. This blog is an attempt at doing the old anew, of pushing the boundaries of old Christian life into contemporary Christian life. Of rethinking stuff so that we can make great stuff.
Part of that process is painful. Things will crash and burn and there will be some failures. Even after some successes there will be failures. There will be some new things, some invention, but there will also be reuse and re-purposing of old things. God has put us in this time and in this place to reach for him – to grope for him. Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that the ways in which people reached for God in the past will suffice for how we must grope for him in the present. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from the past, which can ground and sober us, but there are also paths to be blazed now, a line of fire into the sky.
Every day is the launch, and the landing.